We’ve all heard the phrase, “money doesn’t buy happiness” but the better saying might be, “money doesn’t buy happiness, it just covers the downpayment.” Most people understand that possessing money does not, in itself, make a person happy. We all need family, friends, hobbies, a good job, etc. to truly be happy. But most people also understand that it is very difficult to be happy while living in poverty. So is there an annual income level best suited for real happiness?
The answer is not entirely clear, but research has generally shown that happiness has a positive correlation with income up to a certain point, but after that point there are diminishing returns. That point is $75,000 per year. In other words, happiness seems to increase as income increases- but only up to $75,000 per year. At higher income levels happiness may still increase, but not significantly. This number has been researched thoroughly and seems to hold true for most people in the United States. It is a level of income can cover basic needs, savings, charitable spending, and discretionary spending. The bottom line- after $75,000 has been earned, people don’t have to worry about money. But that doesn’t mean they don’t.
In a recent global survey asking respondents to state the amount of money needed to be happy, the worldwide average answer was $161,000. That is more than double the amount determined by research. Why? The survey simply asked people how much they thought was ideal, and people usually put too much stock in the amount of money they have when it comes to being happy. Study after study has shown that while a lack of money does lead to unhappiness, having lots of money has no correlation with being happier. Once basic needs are provided for, happiness comes from doing things like spending time with family, going to church, taking a memorable trip, exercising or playing sports, being generous, and doing meaningful work.
Nothing suggests that people making more than $75,000 per year are less happy (the phrase “more money, more problems” is not backed by research). But once a certain level of income is obtained, other things make people truly happy. The best advice: Find work that you like to do whether it pays $50,000 or $5 million per year, maintain strong relationships with family and friends, get some exercise, and be generous with your finances and time. If you do those things, you are likely to lead a fulfilling life.